After numerous delays and weeks of conflicting rumors, Major League Baseball has finally body-slammed the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez with a suspension running to the end of the 2014 season. The fading slugger is accused of using both testosterone and human growth hormone over several years, as well as attempting to “obstruct and frustrate” MLB investigators. The massive punishment came just a couple of hours after MLB suspended 12 other players for violations of its policy on performance-enhancing drugs—but each for just 50 games. It’s not at all clear, though, that A-Rod’s punishment will stick, and the disparity in punishment is just part of the problem.
The authority for the 50-game suspensions is clear: the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program (usually called the Joint Drug Agreement), a compact entered into by the league and the players union after the steroids scandals of the 1990s. Under the JDA, 50 games is the penalty for a first violation. Presumably, all 12 of the non–A-Rod players saw the evidence against them and decided to accept their punishments—reportedly, no one plans to appeal.
According to MLB’s press release, Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension is a consequence of both violations of the drug agreement (taking PEDs) and baseball’s Basic Agreement (obstructing MLB’s investigation). Rodriguez’s suspension isn’t just greater than the 65-game ban that Ryan Braun recently accepted. It’s also more severe than even the 100-game ban that comes with a second violation of the JDA. So, is Rodriguez correct in suggesting that the real motivation here is to keep him from raking in money from his (insane) contract for as long as possible? And can he win the appeal he’s going to file?